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You Want Me To Go Where?

by Sarah Cummings
The Huntin' Fool - May 2012

cummings-article

When my boyfriend, Tom Willoughby, used my address to fill out some Fish and Game paperwork, I thought the information was simply in preparation to renew my hunting license. I soon realized that Tom had actually entered me for a sheep tag in the California White Mountains.

Weeks later I received a successful draw letter from California Department of Fish and Game. When I told Tom, he shook his head and said, "You have got to be kidding me! You were drawn for a Bighorn ram in the White Mountains. This is once-in-a-lifetime!"

Tom immediately got on the phone calling his father, a professional guide, and a handful of buddies. Listening to his conversations and having my own conversation with our friend, Jason, who had drawn the same tag a few years before, I came to realize how incredibly lucky I was to draw this tag with no points and very little hunting experience. After a little research, I soon realized, if successful, I would be the first woman to harvest a ram out of the California White Mountains.

The day came to take off for our big adventure. Tom and I drove all night to Bishop, California and met with the Department of Fish and Game for my orientation early the next morning. We received all of the necessary information, picked up my tag, and met one of our guides, Clay of Dry Creek Outfitters. We followed him to base camp where we met the rest of the Dry Creek team: Tim, Cliff, Matt, Troy,
and Travis-six guides in all.

The next morning we loaded up our packs and began a 6-hour climb to our 12,000' elevation spike camp- home for the next few days. By that afternoon, I was pumped and ready to venture out early the next morning for a successful opening day hunt. Our friend, Jason, told us that when he went on the same hunt, he was successful on opening day. So with a little wishful thinking, I was hoping for a quick,
easy first day of hunting.

Opening day came and went with miles of hiking and hours of glassing, but unfortunately no rams. Days 2 and 3 were duplicates of day 1, hiking 10-12 miles with no sight of sheep anywhere. In addition, those first few days we were battling winds up to 65 mph, low temperatures, and working against a mountain lion that had the sheep tucked out of sight. After 3 days of hunting with the seven boys and seeing nothing but small rams, a few ewes, and another hunter, our spirits were beginning to drop. Dry Creek Outfitters did a phenomenal job guiding, but we were working against tough odds. We made the decision to pack our spike camp off the mountain and head to the other side, hoping to have more luck there.

At base camp we had a great meal, a shower, and a good night's rest. The next day we headed to the other side of the mountain. We were all up early and the team was off for what we hoped would be a record-breaking day. Clay went out the night before, determined to find a ram for me. We caught up with Clay just before daybreak and found him glassing.

There were five rams spotted that day, but we weren't convinced that we had found my ram yet. Once the rest of the team spotted the group of rams, we evaluated them, discussed our options, and decided to pass and continue glassing. We completed another long day empty-handed. On the ride back to camp, we decided to go back the next morning, and find the ram we passed on earlier that day.
We started out day 5 at about 3:30 am to find my ram-and that we did.

We found a group of 11 rams way down in a ravine. Secretly, I thought, "You want me to go where?" but I didn't dare say a word to the guys. We decided to go for it- this was my chance. At that point, a million thoughts flooded my mind. It was "go" time, and the pressure was on!

The guys positioned themselves surrounding the rams to a get a view from all sides, while Tom, Cliff, and I began our trek down the harsh, steep, shale hillside. It took us a few hours of maneuvering through the loose rocks to close the distance on the rams. My emotions, now racing, were trying to get the best of me- it took all I had to fight them back as I slipped, slid, and crept my way tediously down the hillside. Thankfully, I had Tom there keeping me strong and on track.

Just before noon, we were 400 yards out and at a 45 degree angle above the rams; the guys were concerned with the distance and the angle, but getting much closer seemed impossible. We laid low for a short time and were able to maneuver about 15 yards closer; 385 yards was as close as I was going to get for this shot. We were all a bit nervous when I decided to take the shot at that angle, but after 5 days of rigorous hunting and harsh conditions, I had a good feeling that today was the day.

I set up on a large rock and had a stable rest, using Cliff and Tom's jackets to steady my shot. I loaded my lucky gun- Tom's Noster model48 Sporter chambered in 300 WSM, with Noster 180 accubond ammo. It was "go" time-well, so I thought.

The ram I decided to go for was beautiful, but my shot was blocked by a smaller ram standing directly in front of him. I kept the ram in my scope for fear that if I looked away I would miss the shot of a lifetime. After sitting with him in my scope for an hour and 45 minutes, the smaller ram finally moved leaving me a clear shot. I took it- and with one shot the ram piled over.

What a moment! I held my breath; waiting for confirmation from the boys. Cliff had the ram in his scope; then he turned to me and  miled. "You did it," he said. I let out a cheer that echoed through the mountain, which echoed back with cheers from the rest of the team. I looked at Tom, whose proud smile made me feel so accomplished. We cheered and hugged, sharing a moment that I will cherish for a lifetime. Later, Cliff turned on his radio and I heard a bold "You did it, girl!" from Tim and exciting congratulations from the rest of the team. We did it, and I was the first woman to take a ram out of the White Mountains! What an amazing' feelingwhat
an amazing team!

We climbed down the rest of the ravine to get to him and I was now filled with a whole new set of emotions. He was absolutely majestic. The guys waited for me to get there, so I was the first to touch him. It was a moment I will never forget. I did it. Holding those massive horns, and knowing last look at where we had come from . At that moment, we that I just went down in history as the first woman to were blessed with the most remarkable sunset- the perfect harvest a ram in the White Mountains was such a rush.

I was eager to take a few pictures with my ram to celebrate this momentous hunt. The Dry Creek team cleaned up the ram and got him positioned and ready for me. I slid into the frame, and they shot a ton of pictures. I am so grateful to have our memories forever in photographs.

After we finished up with the photo shoot, the guys boned out the ram at the bottom of the ravine and we began our trek out. Tom and I took off with a head start while the guides finished up below. We rigorously climbed for hours; one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging experiences of my life. When we all gathered at the top of our climb, the group turned around to take one last look at where we had come from . At that moment, we were blessed with the most remarkable sunset- the perfect end to a perfect day.

We drove back to camp, ate a quick meal, then Tom and I began our drive back to Bishop. The next morning we checked in with Fish and Game. Although my ram didn't make the record book for size, this trip will be in my record book for life.

To my Tom, a sincere thank you for being by my side through the whole process. Your support has meant the world to me. To Dry Creek Outfitters, a huge thank you to Tim, Cliff, and the rest of the crew for your dedication to my hunt. Words cannot express how much those few days together on top of the White Mountains mean to me. I am so glad we can all go down in history together.

Who We Are

Dry Creek Outfitters is a professional hunting guide and outfitting service. We specialize in Trophy Desert Bighorn Sheep hunts in Arizona, California, and Utah. We also offer hunts for Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, Elk, Pronghorn Antelope and Javelina. We are fully licensed, bonded, insured, and permitted.

We have a full time team of professional, knowledgeable guides. Please take a few minutes to look over the information we have provided for you. We think it will substantiate the professional and dependable guide service we have to offer. We sincerely hope that you will consider using Dry Creek Outfitters to assist you in making your hunt truly a HUNT OF A LIFETIME.

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